Steve Smith: Possible retirement "has nothing to do with football"

Baltimore wide receiver Steve Smith may have just played his last game. Coach John Harbaugh doesn't think so, and Smith's agent doesn't think so, either. But when Smith joined the Talk of Fame Network last weekend he insisted his plans to leave after this year would not change, saying the decision had "nothing to do with football."


(Steve Smith photos courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens)

Talk of Fame Network

Steve Smith’s season … and maybe his career … ended much earlier than expected, with the Baltimore wide receiver Steve Smith bowing out of Sunday’s 29-26 defeat of San Diego with a torn Achilles. Except ...

Except afterward Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh reiterated something Smith’s agent volunteered last weekend – saying that he didn’t believe Smith was finished playing.

“I have a feeling Steve Smith will be back,” Harbaugh said.

There are a lot of Ravens’ fans – and NFL fans – who hope he’s right. But when Smith sat down with the Talk of Fame Network last week, he insisted his plans would not change; that this was going to be his last season and that nobody could talk him out of it.

“The reason why not has nothing to do with football,” he said on the Talk of Fame Network’s latest broadcast. “It’s one of those things where you just kind of feel some things … you’re not really sure why or where … but you feel some things inside of you where you understand you’re coming at peace with things.

“Basically, the long and short (is) I watched the Super Bowl this year, and (New England receiver) Brandon LaFell -- my ex-teammate; good friend of mine -- was playing, and he won. So right after he won, I texted him and said, ‘Congratulations, you deserve it.’ And it was really the first time in my career that I actually did not feel anything of like (where) a lot of players sit there and go, ‘Man, that’s going to be us;’ you want to work harder; you want to do this …

“It’s not that I didn’t want to work harder. It’s just that it wasn’t something anymore where I sat there, and I didn’t sleep the next day or I felt ripped off or I felt like, man, this just isn’t right; I should be up there. I guess that this was the first time I didn’t really feel I should be up there. I was more happy that the people were up there. And, honestly, I was happy where I was.”

If Smith doesn’t change his decision he finishes his career as the 10th all-time leader in career receiving yards and becomes a Hall-of-Fame candidate. One reason: He just passed Hall-of-Famer Cris Carter to get to the top 10. Another: He was a three-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler, and he leads all active players in career all-purpose yardage. But the most compelling reason is that he was productive through the end of his career – leading the Ravens in catches, yards receiving and yards per catch at the age of 36.

“I have a thing that’s in my mirror and in my locker,” said Smith, when asked about his legacy, “and I have Jerry Rice’s stat. I think it's 22,895 yards, if I’m not mistaken. At the time I did it, number two was James Lofton, and number three or four was Tim Brown. At the bottom I wrote in bold letters: 'Where will I be in the end?'

"But for me, I don’t want to be the greatest wide receiver who ever played. That has never been my goal. But I do understand and respect that Jerry Rice is the greatest wide receiver of all time. He’s the best who ever played the game.

“So I’ve always kept that picture in my mind. If he is the best, what can I do? And so that just drives me to play hard and practice hard to try to chase him – understanding I will never catch him. But if you don’t have anything to chase then you’re really just kind of aimlessly doing it, and you really don’t understand what’s your purpose and why you’re doing it. So I’m doing it with a purpose and a goal vs. trying to be something I know I can never be … and don’t desire to be.”

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